I was inspired again years later by my nephew, who was making bread - and challah - and so this time I went and found a much simpler recipe. I've adapted it slightly; I'm not one for lots of experimentation, and once something works I stick with it, but I found this still wasn't giving me quite what I wanted. What I have done is to combine a technique from other breads of creating a starter the day before, to allow the initial batter to ferment a little and add some taste and texture. It seems to work quite well.
Thursday: the starter
On Thursday, ideally in the morning but in the evening if you forget (I do, often), make a simple starter.
- 125g strong white flour
- ¼ tsp (approx 1g) dried yeast
- 150g lukewarm water
- Mix the flour and yeast together.
- Add the water and mix well to a smooth batter.
- Cover and leave until Friday morning. If you want to have a peek a few hours later, you'll see it bubbling nicely.
- Optional: give it another good mix on Thursday evening.
Friday: the bread
On Friday morning, make the bread, which should be enough time to be ready for kiddush in the evening.
- 375g strong white flour (plus a little more for the work surface)
- 7g dried yeast
- 60g caster sugar
- 1 whole egg and 1 yolk (plus another for an egg wash)
- 45ml sunflower oil (plus approx another 15ml for kneading etc)
- 10g salt
- 50g lukewarm water (plus a little more if needed)
- Mix the flour, yeast and sugar together in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the middle of ingredients and pour in the starter from yesterday.
- Gently combine the starter with the flour, keeping it in the well in middle, to make a sponge. You're trying to get the batter a little thicker but still leave dry ingredients round the edge.
- Leave the sponge for about half an hour.
- Mix the remaining ingredients (egg, oil, salt and water) in a jug.
- Add the wet ingredients to the sponge and mix it all together into a dough. It should be firm but not too dry, so add a little more water if needed.
- Shape the dough into a rough ball, cover the bowl and leave the dough for 10 minutes.
- Put a little oil on the work surface, take the dough out of the bowl, wipe the bowl clean and oil it.
- Knead the dough for about 30 seconds and put it back in the bowl.
- Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
- Knead again for 30 seconds, then back in the bowl.
- You might want a bit more oil on the work surface if necessary to stop it sticking too much.
- Cover the dough and leave to rise. The time varies, and the recipes usually say "until doubled in size", although I have a hard time telling what "doubled" is, so usually I just leave it for a couple of hours.
- Put some flour on the work surface.
- Take the dough out, press the air out and make it into a rough ball again.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces, as equal as you can (you can weigh them if you want).
- Get a baking tray out, and cover it with baking parchment.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces, weighing if you want to be precise.
- Press each piece into a rough rectangle, then roll it gently into a sausage shape.
- Lay each piece out on the work surface, so that one end of each piece is joined together and the other ends are fanned out.
- Gently dust the pieces with flour.
- Plait the pieces.
- There are lots of ways of plaiting and the best thing to do is watch a video - there's loads out there!
- I usually do a four-plait challah, as shown in the picture at the top, as it's easy to split the dough into four pieces.
- You can also do round challahs for Rosh Hashanah, as shown below.
|Two round challahs, one coiled (left) and one plaited (right)|